Blog Entry

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

Posted on: November 7, 2010 2:32 am
Edited on: November 7, 2010 2:58 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Michigan doesn't do "boring." The game of the week, beyond any doubt, was Michigan's 67-65 squeaker over Illinois. The game featured 132 points scored, 1237 yards from scrimmage, 58 first downs, and 60:00 total time of possession. Okay, so the last one is normal.

Down the stretch, Michigan was led by Tate Forcier under center, as Denard Robinson was knocked out of a game once again. Forcier effectively reprised his role of "4th quarter dynamo" from 2009, proving yet again the rare value of an experienced backup quarterback. Forcier is clearly not Denard, but the fact remains that Forcier is good enough that he should be spelling Robinson periodically throughout Michigan's game regardless of Robinson's health. Michigan has two starting-quality quarterbacks, and as Robinson's accumulation of minor injuries demonstrates, they clearly need to use them! It's just up to Rich Rodriguez to use both on his own terms, rather than waiting for Robinson to get knocked out of the game first.

Thus, the only game that Michigan has participated in that didn't result in at least 50 total points was its season-opening 30-10 win over Connecticut; since then, whenever Michigan takes the gridiron, the points fly; on average, a Michigan game features almost 73 points per game. In fact, after today's circus act, Michigan leads the Big Ten in both points per game and points allowed per game. Is it "good football"? Lord, no. Is it exciting? Of course. If that's the role Michigan is destined to play under Rich Rodriguez, it's certainly a step down for the Wolverines, but it's not necessarily worse for the conference as a whole.

2. The road is awful hard. It don't take no guff. No. 9 Wisconsin went on the road to Purdue and trailed until the second half. No. 16 Iowa went to Indiana and needed a horrific dropped touchdown on 4th down (more on this later) to escape with an 18-13 win. Northwestern blew a 21-0 lead at Happy Valley, Minnesota got smacked by Michigan State, and Illinois couldn't win in Ann Arbor even after scoring 65 points.

All of which is to say, winning on the road in the Big Ten is still really difficult. It's something to keep in mind when prognosticating the Rose Bowl berth endgame. Regardless of how good the four teams at the top of the conference are, odds are that at least one (and probably more) will go down on the road yet this season, and we shouldn't be surprised when it happens.

3. Nothing's really changed at the top. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa all won, and we're still waiting on a score from Ohio State and Brigham Young East (we assume that's what BYE stands for). The tiebreakers remain exactly the same, then, with the only difference being that there is now one fewer game for the first three teams mentioned to lose. With a finite -- and indeed, extremely limited -- amount of games to play, the passage of one week without a dropoff from the top four is in and of itself important, even if the stipulations and situations themselves don't change. Perhaps this isn't something to "have learned," per se , but for the top of the conference, the maintenance of the status quo is still meaningful.

4. Penn State's offense might actually exist. When Northwestern went up 21-0 on a sensational Drake Dunsmore* touchdown late in the first half, it would have been perfectly logical to assume that the Penn State offensive attack, led by former walk-on Matt McGloin, didn't have much of a shot to make up the deficit. After all, it would have tied the largest deficit a Joe Paterno-coached Penn State team had ever made up in his previous 399 victories, and that's a lot of victories.

But of course, Penn State did exactly that, scoring the final 35 points of the game to win 35-21. McGloin poured in four touchdown passes, but the real heroes were on PSU's oft-maligned offensive line; the front five paved enough holes to let both Evan Royster and Silas Redd top 100 rushing yards on the day, and McGloin's 225 passing yards simply wouldn't have happened if he had faced the pressure that regular starter Rob Bolden has become used to in this, his freshman season. Imagine that: when given time and space to operate, a previous all-conference honoree once again looked like an all-conference player, and a walk-on quarterback was able to execute to the best of his ability.

5. One quiet moment for Damario Belcher. We mentioned this play in passing earlier, but it's worth mentioning in more detail; with less than 30 seconds on the clock and the Hoosiers facing a 4th and 10 at the Iowa 18, Indiana QB Ben Chappell found wideout Damario Belcher open in the middle of the end zone. Belcher, already the team's leading receiver on the game with seven catches for 50 yards, made an athletic move to catch the ball with nobody on him and got both hands on it, leading most in the stadium to assume Indiana had scored the putative winning touchdown.

Alas, as an eagle-eyed referee (and several optimistic Iowa players) noticed, Belcher bobbled the pass and never controlled it before the ball hit the ground and rolled away ineffectually, making the play nothing more than a drive-killing incomplete pass. Indiana challenged, but it was an easy confirmation for replay officials; it clearly was not a catch. Iowa knelt on the ball, and just like that, Indiana lost on a play Belcher makes probably 90-95% of the time.

Again, this isn't strictly something to learn, but it's something important to remember: Belcher's a human being, and he doesn't need anybody to remind him that he screwed the game-winning play up. There's likely nobody in the world -- like, at all -- who feels worse about the loss than he does. So to anybody who finds it necessary to complain that Belcher "sucks" or is "stupid" or "needs to get his damn head in the game" or whatever arbitrary derogatory remark they think applies to Belcher, one piece of advice: save it. Just don't add to the crapfest that guy's season already became, and strike a note for civility instead. Granted, Indiana football fans aren't generally known to be nasty or otherwise unreasonable to begin with or anything, but still: let's all keep our heads screwed on about this game and this 20-year-old kid playing it.

*Did you know: Drake Dunsmore is a second-generation college football player. His father is Pat Dunsmore, a star tight end who was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears in 1983 and played two seasons with the team. And where did Pat Dunsmore go to school? Yep: Drake University.


Since: Sep 17, 2010
Posted on: November 9, 2010 8:55 am

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

What I learned is that the Big Ten teams that are ranked high have very poor strength of schedules.  But, hey it has gotten them good records and high rankings.  So, they must be smarter than the rest of the country.  Human polls seem to favor records over SOS.
Anyway, that is what I have observed. 

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: November 8, 2010 9:46 am

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

I get the sentiment in #5. On the other hand, NCAA DI athletes--particularly those at skill positions like WR--get an awful lot of adoration when they play well, and LOTS of perks for playing at all. And the last several thousand times I watched a big-time college football game, I also happened to notice that they are awfully quick to celebrate their own achievements, even the most pedestrian ones, by beating their chests, taunting opposing players, and posing for the crowd. So when you make a career-definingly bad, monumentally bone-headed inept play, by failing to do the one thing--in as easy a situation to do it as you could possibly hope for in those circumstances (the guy was WIDE open)--that you're enjoying 4 years of free education and big-man-on-campus status for doing...well, hoping that everybody just leaves you alone because your feelings are hurt enough already is probably hoping for a bit too much. Does the guy deserve death threats or major harassment? Certainly not. But I don't think IU fans would be out of line for saying that he sucks or needs to get his head in the game. And no, I'm not an IU fan. Just a guy that caught the end of a potential upset and could not believe how badly Belcher let his team down on that play.

On the upside, at least the guys plays for Indiana, and not an SEC school. Because then he probably would get threats.

Since: Jan 6, 2010
Posted on: November 8, 2010 5:47 am

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

Dude, a Tenacious D reference and Brigham Young East....somebody just became a new favorite of mine!!! Money mouth

Since: Sep 24, 2008
Posted on: November 7, 2010 6:26 am

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

What I learned from the Big Ten:
The major powerhouse teams of this conference (Iowa, Wisconsin, Mich State, Ohio State) better batten down the hatches and dig their heels in, cause the last few games of the season aren't going to be easy. Sure, Northwestern FAILED dismally in their embaressing  coughing up of a 21 point lead to Penn State (NOTE: THIS IS IS NOT A JAB AT PENN STATE. THEY DID AN AMAZING JOB AND CONGRATS TO CLASSY JoPa). That said, they looked pretty darned good in that first half. As a matter of fact, Indiana looked pretty darn good today as well. They were within a hair of knocking off Iowa. Iowa has to play NU next week. Wisconsin (who looked lazy against Purdue) has to play both Indian and NU to close out the season. They've been warned- don't take these two lower tier teams lightly. Ohio State and Mich State should be similarly prepping for a tough roads ahead- they both have to play that inspired Penn State team that dug down deep and produced 35 unanswered points against a decent NU defense while shutting down an offense that torched them in the first half. The top teams may be the ones contending for the big ten title, but it's the middle/bottom teams that might decide it.

oh, and illinois better sort that D out, or the tail end of the season may not pan out quite as planned

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